Jerusalem: Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was forced out of office by a series of graft charges, was let off with a light punishment carrying a suspended one-year jail term on Monday, meaning the disgraced leader can now calculate a possible return to public life.
    
Olmert was handed a one year suspended sentence and fined about USD 19,000 by a Jerusalem court several months after he was found guilty of corruption.
    
The suspended sentence that means he will serve no jail term comes as a major relief for the 66-year-old leader.
    
Olmert was convicted in July of breach of trust for decisions he made while serving as Industry, Trade and Labour minister in the government led by Ariel Sharon.
    
Reading the 27-page ruling, Judge Mussiya Arad said Olmert was guilty of a "grave and absolute conflict of interest" and that the gravity of the case required "a practical response".
    
Olmert's attorneys have said that they do not plan to appeal the conviction.
    
Prosecutor Eli Abarbanel told reporters that his office was considering an appeal.
    
"This affair is not over... The sentencing considerations are complicated in this case, they are unusual. We shall examine this ruling studiously, not make off-the-cuff statements. We shall see if an appeal is justified or not," Eli said. The prosecution has the right to appeal the verdict within 45 days.
    
At a hearing earlier this month, the prosecution had requested that Olmert be given a sentence of six months of community service, as well as a fine and probation.
    
The court had ruled in July that Olmert had been improperly involved in allocations by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's Investment Center to companies that were represented by attorney Uri Messer, a close personal friend and former business partner.

The former Israeli leader's then bureau chief, Shula Zaken, also escaped with a lighter sentence - a nine-month suspended sentence and about USD 10,000 in fine.
    
"I told the judges that I hoped to walk out of the court with my head held high, and today I am walking out of the court with my head held high.
    
"I already stated last time that I accept and respect all the failures I committed for which the court has convicted me, and I will learn my lessons," Olmert told the press after coming out of the courtroom.
    
The former prime minister's attorney, Navot Tal Tzur, thanked the court for its treatment of the case and stressed, "as far as my professional worldview is concerned, the case is over and done with".
    
"Under these circumstances, anyone dreaming of filing an appeal in this case – such an appeal will be seen as no more than persecution," Tal Tzur added.

(Agencies)

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